|Alexander Turnbull Library rare books curator Ruth Lightbourne shows off the two rare books discovered among donations for a Kapiti book fair.|
The hunt's on for the owner of two ancient and rare books mysteriously donated to a Kapiti book fair.
Lions Monster Bookfair spokesman Joe Franklin said he spotted the old books three weeks ago among about 60,000 donated annually, and decided to do some research.
To his surprise he discovered one was 326 years old and the other 264.
He contacted the Alexander Turnbull Library and found the first book, Poole, Annotations Upon the Holy Bible, vol.2 was published in 1688 and is one of just 16 known worldwide and one of only two in the southern hemisphere.
"The date was in Roman numerals. It was only when I got it home and Googled it, I realised how old it was."
The author, Matthew Poole (1624-1679), was an English non-conformist theologian who fled from England to Amsterdam after he became a target for assassination because of his alternative religious views.
The book was completed by his brethren and published after his death.
Measuring 400 x 240 x 70mm, it sets out to "explain the Bible's contradictions and resolve questions and doubts".
The second book, D.Juvii Juvenalis, et Persii Flacci Satirae, was published in 1750 and only 18 other copies are known worldwide. There is one other in the southern hemisphere, at Fisher Library in Sydney.
A much smaller book and written in Latin, it is part of a collection of poems written by Decimus Junius Juvenal in the late 2nd century AD, published in 1750.
"It is also showing its age, with a cover detached, but its pages are still in very good condition," Franklin said.
"The name ‘K Buchanan 1936' is written in ink in one of the endpapers, which might give a clue to who owned it.
"We would love to find out where the books came from."
Many cartons were left throughout the district or delivered anonymously and collectors had been canvassed but none knew who donated the books.
The books had been gifted to Alexander Turnbull Library and rare books curator Ruth Lightbourne was also keen to find out who had owned them.
"It is surprising for rare books like this to be dumped at a book fair. Someone might have thought, ‘what the heck is this old thing?'
"I would love to know the story behind the donations, where they have come from. If the family is happy we like to put the former owner's name in our catalogue records."
Lightbourne said copies of Annotations Upon the Holy Bible could have been in a church or cathedral library in England, whereas the Latin book was probably in a private collection.
Because of their condition, she believed their monetary worth would be in the hundreds rather than thousands.
The books had been wrapped in acid-free paper and put on a list for attention. "Conservators these days tend to do less rather than more. A researcher does not want to come in and see a highly restored book that was done last week. If it is an old book they want to see it as it was."